Online Business Travel Attracts Industry Players

Competition for corporate travel heats up

Competition for corporate travel bookings heated up last week with announcements from nearly a half-dozen industry players.

The announcements came as the National Business Travel Association held its annual conference in Dallas, and in the wake of an association survey that shows online business travel is growing.

“Online is radically transforming the landscape of corporate travel, and many companies are already achieving significant cost savings through technology,” GetThere President Jeff Palmer said during the association’s conference.

Palmer said travel professionals and company management now need to spend more time evaluating their company’s needs and evaluating where greater cost savings can be achieved.

A recent Runzheimer International survey of 280 corporate travel professionals found that 40 percent of businesses had reduced their travel budgets this year from last.

Among online corporate travel announcements made last week:

" Northwest Airlines created a new online service for its corporate customers that allows them to access all available fares, including special fares, for the first time. Northwest said its CorpNet Direct targets medium and large corporations. It said there are no setup or transaction fees.

" Southwest Airlines announced more online offerings for business and corporate travelers with its Swabiz program that allows them to pay for tickets via pre-entered company credit cards.

" Travelocity unveiled Travelocity Business, a full-service corporate travel agency for small- and medium-sized companies that allows them to plan, buy and manage their travel. The service essentially merges the functions of Travelocity with GetThere, Travelocity’s sister company that already provides an online booking tool for corporations.

Travelocity said the service is available around-the-clock, and offers a guarantee that an agent will answer a customer’s call within 60 seconds or the transaction fee will be waived. Travelocity said it already had signed several clients including Hitachi Electronic Devises USA, W.J. Bradley Co., and the Honolulu Symphony.

" Expedia Corporate Travel, a full-service travel management company operated by Expedia, announced it had added several new clients as well, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Onyx Software Corp., and Akibia Inc.